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Older pre 1982 pennies work best. Newer ones can be used but you'll get silver streaks in the pennies once pressed. The older ones do look better if you shine them first but if you're not particular about how they look, then use whatever you have. Some of the newer machines don't even take pennies - you have to pay with bills or credit cards.
Pennies before 1982 were made with a high copper content. I think in the 90%+ range. After 1982 pennies are made mostly from zinc and are copper coated. When you use the newer pennies the zinc can show through the copper coating when pressed. The older pennies will have a more uniform color.